2009

6 May 2009: Gays not free to pursue happiness

Gays not at liberty to pursue happiness

Periodically, we read or hear of cases of modern enslavement, such as that of the Afghan family indicted last fall in Seattle, in which adults are accused of enslaving usually young, immigrant females to serve as domestics and/or for sex.

Let’s assume the 13th Amendment, which outlaws slavery, is repealed. Would it, then, be legal to deprive human beings in 21st-century America, the home of the free, of their inalienable right to liberty?

In 1857 Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote in the Dred Scott v. Sanford decision “It is too clear for dispute that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration” in reference to the phrase “all men are created equal.”

Somehow I find it not likely that even today’s most conservative Supreme Court justices would vote to uphold that most infamous of Supreme Court decisions that effectively established the constitutional principle that blacks were non-human and those that were slaves were mere property, even if the 13th Amendment were repealed.

My question is not with the intent to revive or justify slavery but to get at human rights principles briefly delineated in the Declaration of Independence: “that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The conundrum of constitutional allowance of slavery forces us to consider our societal essence under the Constitution to hold such practices legal in 21st-century America if it were not for the legal proscriptions.

In other words, can essential natural rights be denied a specific group of people?

A few weeks a jury took two hours to convict and sentence to life Allen Andrade for the murder of transgender Angie Zapata.

Weld County District Attorney Kenneth Buck (R), who has since announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2010, wrote a common sense, dispassionate column for the Denver Post explaining how the case came to be resolved.

In it, Buck admits he was “skeptical about the use of the bias-motivated crimes statute,” but was “persuaded that these crimes are unique.”

“Bias-motivated crimes are particularly heinous because they target an entire community of people, not just the actual victim,” he acknowledges.

Hate crime laws serve a purpose, as Buck states, to protect distinct groups of people because from being terrorized. Like Timothy McVeigh and the September 11th attackers, Andrade is a terrorist. His statement “all gay things must die” confirms that.

That opens the door, however, to the larger issue of minorities’ rights, which is the fundamental purpose of government—to protect them—specifically, in this case, the right of non-heterosexuals to be legally married and participate in all the accompanying legal rights married hetero couples enjoy.

Is marriage an inalienable right? Certainly it comes under the broad concepts of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Why else do two adults choose to take up with one another and form a legal union?

The question for us today is not only about whether persons can be denied their liberty and held as property—regardless of the 13th Amendment—but also whether a group of people can be denied their inalienable rights.

Gays and lesbians have been getting married in Massachusetts for five years. Recently, the legislature in Vermont voted to permit gay marriage there, passing it over the veto of the governor.

The Supreme Court of Iowa ruled that banning gays and lesbians from marrying is unconstitutional in that state.

Justice Mark Cady wrote, “We are firmly convinced that the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification.”

New York and New Jersey are poised to join those states as well as Connecticut in legalizing gay marriage.

And at last view, the firmament is still intact above them all.

The time has come for Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, President Obama to lift the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, and Colorado to repeal its hate amendment denying gays and lesbians their natural right to marry a partner of their choice.

Denying gays and lesbians their natural rights not only institutionalizes bigotry but also serves to give the Andrades of the world cover for their heinous acts.

In his tract Rights of Man, Thomas Paine wrote, “Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.”

The irresistible truth of gay marriage is that it works and it causes no harm.

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